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Sunday, 16 July, 2000, 21:45 GMT 22:45 UK
GM protestors invade field
A protestor dressed as the Grim Reaper
Some protestors were arrested after invading field of GM crops
Dozens of anti-GM demonstrators invaded a field and began destroying a trial crop of maize before they were stopped by police.

About 50 protesters climbed into the 50-acre field at Over Compton, near Sherborne, Dorset, and began flattening sections of the crop before officers moved in.

Around seven of the demonstrators were arrested, although Dorset Police would not confirm the exact number detained.

The demonstration began peacefully when up to 300 campaigners, including young children and pensioners, gathered at the village hall in Nether Compton for a rally and picnic before walking the mile to the controversial field - the only GM trial in the south west.

A protestor
Protestors broke through fences
Several were dressed as Grim Reapers carrying huge scythes. Others carried placards and banged drums.

300-strong gathering

When the group arrived at the field, about a quarter scaled the gates despite the presence of the police officers and the force helicopter.

Protester Charlotte Green, 28, said she had driven from Devon to join the 300-strong gathering.

"It is an important issue," she said. "I think it is terrible that this is going on and the protests are just a way of making sure people are aware of what is happening a few miles from where they live."

Mark Howard, spokesman for the direct action campaign group SURGE (Southern Union of Resistance to Genetic Engineering), which took part in the demonstration, said: "These crops are dangerous and as far as we are concerned it is like the BSE crisis in its implications.

"We don't want any scientific experiments on GM crops to take place because we cannot control them. They are already contaminating other organic crops in the area."

Planning regulations

Sunday's protest follows East Dorset District Council's recent decision to look into the planning regulations surrounding the tests at Over Compton which was set up three months ago.

Although the site has permission for agricultural use, anti-GM campaigners say technically it is being used for scientific experiments and is therefore in breach of local authority planning policy.

East Dorset District Council is to meet on August 1 to discuss the issue which could end up as a test case undermining the Government's GM crop tests currently running across the country.

Farmer Brian Lock, who owns the field, declined to comment.

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